The European Commission is taking a clear-eyed look at Europe's future. On March 1, the institution presented a report proposing five different visions for what the European Union might look like in 2025. The report will doubtless take center stage at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday between discussions of such issues as migration, security, defense and the economy. Along with suggesting that member states could integrate at different speeds, the white paper raises the possibility that EU member countries may regain control of some prerogatives currently under Brussels' authority.
This idea represents a marked departure for EU leaders. Since the bloc's inception six decades ago, its goal has always been to progressively delegate national policy decisions to supranational authorities. Every institutional reform since the 1950s has furthered this goal, giving Brussels more responsibilities. Though EU officials have said they oppose weakening the supranational institutions, the white paper nonetheless speaks volumes about how things have changed in Europe.
However unusual the report may seem, Europe has already tried many of the ideas outlined in it. Integration in the Continental bloc, for instance, has been moving at multiple speeds for decades. Some members use the euro as their currency, while others don't. Some are members of the Schengen Agreement allowing passport-free movement, while others aren't. And some countries are exempted from participating in EU structures on domestic affairs and security cooperation. But prior to the white paper's publication, the bloc's central expectation was that all EU members would converge one day, if only in the distant future.